All of them, those in power, and those who want the power, would pamper us, if we agreed to overlook their crookedness by wilfully restricting our activities.
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The basic premise of the Church of Scientology is that humans can realize their full potential only if they clear away negative memories.
The means of doing so were presented by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard in the best-selling book "Dianencs," which he wrote in 1950. Hubbard argued that by a process of counseling ("auditing"), negative memories ("engrams") could be erased.
Auditing involves the use of an E-meter, a sort of lie detector on which, the subject holds two tin cans wired to a galvanometer. The machine, patented by Hubbard, measures electrical impulses which supposedly indicate a level of emotional distress.
The Scientologist conducting the auditing asks the subject about painful or embarrassing experiences in hopes of eliciting buried memories. The subject's responses are dutifully recorded, filed and kept in voluminous folders in church storage rooms.
A subject who manages to root out all negative memories reaches a state of "clear" or happiness. He or she can then reach back into previous lives.
"Know thyself and the truth shall set you free," said Hubbard, who claimed to have reached back 74 trillion years.
A 12-hour auditing course costs about $3,000, said the Rev. Ann Ruble, president of the Church of Scientology of Washington State. But the fee includes follow-up counseling, courses and other services, she said.
Advanced courses, which help rid the body of the ill effects of chemicals, alcohol and drugs, are available at additional cost. A complete curriculum of courses can cost $40,000.
After the success of "Dianetics," Hubbard began the church in Phoenix in 1954. He sold franchises to operate other churches on the condition that 10 percent of the income be returned to the parent church. Today, church assets are estimated at $250 million.
Church operations, however, ran afoul of the Internal Revenue Service which claimed it was due $6 million in taxes from income that was not tax-exempt. The church's status as a tax-exempt, religious organization is now unclear because courts have ruled both ways.
In 1966, Hubbard, feeling harassed by the IRS and the FBI, set up headquarters with 500 followers at sea on a converted British ferry. He came ashore again in 1975, unsuccessfully tried to take over the city government of Clearwater, Fla. (where the church is headquartered today) and, in March 1980, disappeared. Some say he lives in a heavily guarded, walled estate near Palm Springs, Calif.
In his absence, some of his followers got into trouble. Last year, 11 Scientologists, including his third wife, were convicted of burgling U.S. government offices in Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, his estranged son sued for control of his estate. And a group of "Sea Orgs," the elite who sailed with him on the converted ferry, purged the church, creating a new corporation which claimed rightful ownership of Hubbard's trademarks and techniques.
After that takeover, many members either left or became independent Scientologists.
[Picture / Caption: L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology founder, claims to have reached back into previous lives for 74 trillion years.]